Tuesday, April 28, 2015

GIS3015 - The Final Project: ACT Scores 2013

This was the culminating event for Cartographic Skills! It has been a huge task, and way more fun than we should have been allowed to have. 

The specific task was to compile a map to be published in the Washington Post along with a short article. The map will show how many High School Seniors took the ACT test in 2013, by State, and what the Average Composite ACT score was for each US State. The exercise scenario is that I work for the U.S. Department of Education, more specifically, I work for the National Center for Education Statistics; that would be a dream job! The main objective here is that I get to use the skills I have acquired over the semester, including; Selecting the appropriate Projection; Classifying Data; using Geostatistical Tools to Explore Data; use Editing to modify an attribute table; create an excel spreadsheet and use Join and Relate; apply, Gestalt’s principles for design, typography, and label placement and much more.

I began by examining the data and using the Geostatistical Analyst tool to Explore the Data. I reviewed the data to see which classification made the most sense. Since this data is in Percent, it was already normalized so that eliminated one step. I used the Geostatistical Tools to Explore the data and made a couple of Histograms to examine the Min, Max, Mean and Std Dev. Once I had a handle on the data, it was time to start arranging my map.

In order to show Alaska and Hawaii close to the Contiguous United States, I used extra Data Frames to single out Alaska and Hawaii and to position them as close as possible so I could make the best use of the space I had to work with. 

For this thematic map I selected Graduated Symbols, and five classes to represent the Percent of High School Students Tested and the Average Composite ACT Score. I selected Graduated Symbols over Proportional Symbols because the testing percentages had a large range from 8 to 100 percent while the Average Composite ACT score was very narrow, only 18.7 to 24.1. The Graduated symbols allow the data to be presented in ranges and this allows us to more easily discriminate using the five categories of Percent Tested and Average Composite ACT Score by state.

I exported the .mxd file and saved it as an .eps file so that I could make some needed adjustments to my map using Corel Draw.  The Graduated Symbols and the Labels seemed to merge and overlap; I had a very crowded map. So, I used Corel Draw to select the State labels (US Postal Abbreviations) and the Graduated Symbols to separate them. I had used Mask, to provide a halo for the Labels, but it was still difficult to distinguish one from the other. Before I share my final map, I would like to say that I thoroughly enjoyed this class. The people taking this class are truly dedicated professionals and certainly our Teacher and TA were both fantastic. One of the best parts of this class was the Discussion posts. I did not ask many questions but I can assure you I read each and every post and I learned from everyone in the class.  Many "thanks" to everyone.  I look forward to next semester’s classes and continued learning. 

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